Archive for May, 2013

Here’s a favorite song of mine, and it’s just perfect this time of year as a great reminder to watch for turtles in the road….and carry them across :) Oh this song is so catchy!

Keep an eye on Julie Zickefoose’s blog to buy the whole CD, “Dream” by the Rain Crows – it’ll be available soon!


Box_Turtle_Rescue_Greenway_20130516Watch your roads for turtles crossing.

Snappers, painted and box turtles have been reported in numbers recently crossing roads to find mates and to find good places to lay eggs.

All turtles (even snappers) can be moved from the road and taken out of harms way.

Photo here is of a female box turtle found upside down.  Her leg was injured so she was taken to a rehabber but we expect a good recovery and will take her back to her home territory.

If you find an injured turtle, the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center has experts on hand to help.


There have been reports of 3 Monarch butterflies in Loudoun so far – two in Purcellville and one in Round Hill. So — keep an eye on your milkweed patch!

The aroma of the milkweed wafts up into the air and Monarchs flying by smell it. Check your milkweed for eggs and caterpillars. Monarchs are moving through albeit at very low numbers. If you have any sightings, report them to Journey North here but also email Nicole Hamilton at

Chip Taylor of Monarch Watch just put out a very insightful and data rich report of the Monarch population, giving us an idea of what to expect this year. It’s well worth the read:

Monarchs are off to a slow start this year, with the number moving north in May at an all time low. Chip Taylor, Director of Monarch Watch, provides detailed analysis, explains why we will see very few monarchs this year and predicts that the wintering population in Mexico could be lower this coming winter than it was in 2012-2013.

Read the full report here:


Congratulations to the residents of Old Waterford Knoll for setting up a Monarch Waystation on their common area!

Read more about this great project here:


Twenty-six people showed up for the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s regular, every 4th Sat,. monthly bird walk at the Blue Ridge Center. In spite of the wind, which made it hard to hear & even harder to located birds, there was still a fair amount of activity. Among the 67 species found were 10 dif. warbler species, two Yellow-throated Vireos, all birds which nest at the Blue Ridge Center, and a couple of Yellow-billed Cuckoos which we got great looks at.

A Yellow-breasted Chat entertained us by perching on a wire next to the parking area at the Visitor Center (VC) and then chatting at us until it flew into the scrub between the VC and the Organic Farm where it has nested for several years.

When we moved over to Arnold Rd for the walk, itself, a Baltimore Oriole did the same, often sounding like a chat, but on top of a close-by tree. And when we finally came out of the forest we watched at least four Common Ravens, prob. young adults who haven’t mated yet, playing in the air over the Short Hill ridge on the other side of the valley.

Int’g misses were both Wood Thrush and Blue-winged Warbler though we did not get into the area the latter nests in until after 11 am and spent most of the morning birding in the heavily-forested portions of the Blue Ridge Center.

Information on the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship can be found at   Information on the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy and its many free activities can be found at

Joe Coleman

The complete list follows:   Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship – MFF01, Loudoun, US-VA May 25, 2013 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM Protocol: Traveling 2.5 mile(s) 67 species

Canada Goose  8, Great Blue Heron  3, Green Heron  1, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk  3, Red-tailed Hawk  2, Rock Pigeon  2, Mourning Dove, Yellow-billed Cuckoo  3, Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker  1, Northern Flicker  1, Pileated Woodpecker  3, American Kestrel  1, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Acadian Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe  2, Great Crested Flycatcher  3, Eastern Kingbird  1, White-eyed Vireo  1, Yellow-throated Vireo  2, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow  1, Common Raven  4, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch  3, Carolina Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin,Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher  1, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing  3, Ovenbird  1, Worm-eating Warbler  1, Louisiana Waterthrush  1, Kentucky Warbler  1, Common Yellowthroat  2, American Redstart  4, Cerulean Warbler  3, Northern Parula  3, Yellow-throated Warbler  1, Yellow-breasted Chat  1, Eastern Towhee  1, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Indigo Bunting, Red-winged Blackbird  1, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird  1, Orchard Oriole  1, Baltimore Oriole  1, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.


USGS Study Confirms U.S. Amphibian Populations Declining at Precipitous Rates

Posted: 22 May 2013 01:59 PM PDT

CORVALLIS, Ore. — The first-ever estimate of how fast frogs, toads and salamanders in the United States are disappearing from their habitats reveals they are vanishing at an alarming and rapid rate.

According to the study released today in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, even the species of amphibians presumed to be relatively stable and widespread are declining. And these declines are occurring in amphibian populations everywhere, from the swamps in Louisiana and Florida to the high mountains of the Sierras and the Rockies.

The study by USGS scientists and collaborators concluded that U.S. amphibian declines may be more widespread and severe than previously realized, and that significant declines are notably occurring even in protected national parks and wildlife refuges.

“Amphibians have been a constant presence in our planet’s ponds, streams, lakes and rivers for 350 million years or so, surviving countless changes that caused many other groups of animals to go extinct,” said USGS Director Suzette Kimball. “This is why the findings of this study are so noteworthy; they demonstrate that the pressures amphibians now face exceed the ability of many of these survivors to cope.”

On average, populations of all amphibians examined vanished from habitats at a rate of 3.7 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about 20 years. The more threatened species, considered “Red-Listed” in an assessment by the global organization International Union for Conservation of Nature, disappeared from their studied habitats at a rate of 11.6 percent each year. If the rate observed is representative and remains unchanged, these Red-Listed species would disappear from half of the habitats they currently occupy in about six years.

“Even though these declines seem small on the surface, they are not,” said USGS ecologist Michael Adams, the lead author of the study. “Small numbers build up to dramatic declines with time. We knew there was a big problem with amphibians, but these numbers are both surprising and of significant concern.”

For nine years, researchers looked at the rate of change in the number of ponds, lakes and other habitat features that amphibians occupied. In lay terms, this means that scientists documented how fast clusters of amphibians are disappearing across the landscape.

In all, scientists analyzed nine years of data from 34 sites spanning 48 species. The analysis did not evaluate causes of declines.

The research was done under the auspices of the USGS Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative, which studies amphibian trends and causes of decline. This unique program, known as ARMI, conducts research to address local information needs in a way that can be compared across studies to provide analyses of regional and national trends.

Brian Gratwicke, amphibian conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, said, “This is the culmination of an incredible sampling effort and cutting-edge analysis pioneered by the USGS, but it is very bad news for amphibians. Now, more than ever, we need to confront amphibian declines in the U.S. and take actions to conserve our incredible frog and salamander biodiversity.”

The study offered other surprising insights. For example, declines occurred even in lands managed for conservation of natural resources, such as national parks and national wildlife refuges.

“The declines of amphibians in these protected areas are particularly worrisome because they suggest that some stressors – such as diseases, contaminants and drought – transcend landscapes,” Adams said. “The fact that amphibian declines are occurring in our most protected areas adds weight to the hypothesis that this is a global phenomenon with implications for managers of all kinds of landscapes, even protected ones.”

Amphibians seem to be experiencing the worst declines documented among vertebrates, but all major groups of animals associated with freshwater are having problems, according to Adams. While habitat loss is a factor in some areas, other research suggests that things like disease, invasive species, contaminants and perhaps other unknown factors are related to declines in protected areas.

“This study,” said Adams, “gives us a point of reference that will enable us to track what’s happening in a way that wasn’t possible before.”

Read FAQs about this research

The publication, Trends in amphibian occupancy in the United States, is authored by  Adams, M.J., Miller, D.A., Muths, E., Corn, P.S., Campbell Grant, E.H., Bailey, L., Fellers, G.M., Fisher, R.N., Sadinski, W.J., Waddle, H., and Walls, S.C., and is available to the public.

Read a USGS blog, Front-row seats to climate change, about 3 other recent USGS amphibian studies. For more information about USGS amphibian research, visit


Last December as we got the wheels spinning for our Monarch Butterfly campaign, we placed an order for milkweed with Monarch Watch — 2200 plants!

As you know, milkweed is the only plant the Monarch eats as a caterpillar. If you do not have milkweed, then you will not have Monarchs. Needless to say, I love milkweed :) !

So how did the plants that we ordered come to be? Last fall, volunteers from our area collected milkweed seeds and sent them to Monarch Watch for propagation and the opportunity to help get more milkweed plants planted across our region.

It’s exciting that the plants that we ordered are from our area because those seeds know our climate and soils and are best suited for being planted here in our Monarch Waystation gardens. It gives these plants a leg up.

The seeds were carefully cared for and planted in January and the growing began! Like expectant parents, many of us eagerly awaited updates and photos from Chip Taylor on the developing seedlings.

milkweed-from_chip_May_7_2013Then, on May 7th, I got an email from Chip, simply titled, “Here they come”.  He had been over to the nursery checking on the plants and snapped a few shots to share with us.

The seedlings had already been trimmed once to encourage growth and this was their robust regrowth – bright and green!

That’s when I sprung into action and reached out to all the teachers who had expressed interest in creating a Monarch Waystation garden at their schools. So far, 20 schools are jumping in to this – which is pretty exciting!

On May 15th, I received another email from Chip – this time with the subject, “great photos”.  Indeed, it was great! Our plants were all packed up and ready to come home!

With sweaty palms, I tracked their trip from Kansas and talked with Chip and the grower, Elliott, from Applied Ecological, almost every day. One challenge that popped up was that we needed a place with a forklift in order to receive the plants since they were packed on pallets and coming via semi-truck.

To cut to the chase, we ended up having them delivered to a plumbing supply company in Leesburg, VAMAC. Charles and James at VAMAC were so understanding and so helpful – we really thank them for their help!

On Monday, May 20th I received the call from VAMAC saying “Your plants arrived!”. My husband Gil hooked up his trailer and we went over to get the plants. Mona Miller then came over and we unloaded and unpacked them, and got them ready for teachers to come over and pick them up.

So today and tomorrow most of these plants  will be winging their way off to places across Loudoun – local seeds that went to Kansas, grew up big and strong, and came back home to put down roots and welcome Monarch Butterflies (and 457 other species) to enjoy their bounty.

After the requests from schools have been filled, we will be selling the remaining plants to anyone who is interested in planting them. No milkweed shall go unplanted! :)

If you are interested in buying some of these plants, you can email me at They must be picked up though – these guys have had enough shipping experiences :)

Thank you Chip Taylor and everyone at Monarch Watch for making these available and Elliott at Applied Ecological for  growing such gorgeous plants and being a part of the solution in Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive!

And thank you Dulles Greenway! The Drive for Charity funds are making this donation of plants to schools and the kickoff of this Monarch campaign possible!

More photos from this milkweed adventure can be seen here.


This past Sunday afternoon, we held Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s 18th Annual Meeting!

It was great to see so many members together, enjoy the good cheer and celebrate where we’ve been and where we’re headed!  You can view the whole photo album here.

This year we held our Annual Meeting at Morven Park in Leesburg and the venue proved to be wonderful. Not only did Wood Thrush and Orioles serenade guests as they entered the Coach museum for the event, but we also enjoyed looking at the antique coaches throughout the museum as we mingled, enjoyed light fare from Vintage 50, bid on silent auction items, and delved into the wonderful assortment of native milkweed and nectar plants that were for sale compliments of Catoctin Gardens and Nature by Design. Karen Strick and Lisa Schoepfle provided wonderful music throughout the social period with their flute duet.

To kick off the meeting, Nicole Hamilton gave a brief overview of some of our 2012 accomplishments that include:
- Continued youth environmental education programs for local schools, nature camp and nature journaling
- Building our bluebird nestbox trail network to 29 trails across Loudoun and fledging 1,361 Bluebirds from those boxes
- Reaching 150 trained volunteers in our stream monitoring protocol
- Linking our amphibian monitoring program with habitat restoration to restore functionality to some vernal pools at Morven Park
- Continuing our bird counts and exceeding more than 52,000 bird sightings in development of the first Loudoun County Bird Atlas
- Holding 64 field trips and 17 nature programs, which more than 850 people attended
- Leading habitat restoration projects that included meadow restoration at the Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship and wetland restoration at the equine medical center adjacent to Morven Park
- Continuing to be the voice for wildlife and healthy habitat by speaking out on topics that included the County’s approach for addressing Lyme disease in the County, and Leesburg’s issue with Vultures.

Next, the Volunteer of the Year award was presented with Linda Sieh being the recipient. Linda has been an active volunteer with Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy for more than 6 years. She leads the bluebird nestbox monitoring trail at Horsepen Preserve at Countryside, helps line up and co-leads field trips at Horsepen which enables residents and non-residents of the community to explore this rich habitat, and leads amphibian monitoring at Horsepen which has led to new species being discovered there. Beyond all these activities though, Linda has worked quietly behind the scenes as our Treasurer and through this role, she transformed our financial management and bookkeeping by transitioning us to a professional software tool and further defining and aligning our budget categories to make our accounting processes more streamlined. She also coordinates our annual audit and completes our Form 990 each year.  She has been, and continues to be an incredible asset to our team and someone who is instrumental in moving Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy forward as an organization and resource to the County!

Following that award, Marcia Weidner spoke about the Loudoun County Science Fair and Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s continued support of the event and the students through reviewing each of the 200+ projects and selecting Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy’s winners. Each of the winners had their projects set up for display and talked to guests about their work during the social part of the meeting. Marcia called each of them up to recognize their efforts and present them with their checks.  Details on each of the 2013 Science Fair winners and their projects can be found here.

Paul Miller them stepped up to the podium and talked about the Roger Tory Peterson Young Naturalist Awards. These awards are given to budding naturalists who participate in the annual nature journaling project. Three award winners were recognized and a full report will be posted shortly.

Following the awards, Alonso Abugattas took us on a milkweed safari, for our afternoon program. He told us about the ways in which people have used milkweed over the years and went into some of the 457 different species of insects that come to and use milkweed plants. They are truly a great plant for any garden or landscape. They not only provide critical food for the Monarch butterfly while it is in its caterpillar stage, but they also provide us with a gateway in to explore the wild around us!

Thank you to all the volunteers who worked on planning, preparing and hosting this Annual Meeting: Erin Gulick, Mildred Porter, Sharon Plummer, Ann Garvey, Marcia Martin, Kris Dennen, Paul Miller, Phil and Ellie Daley, Dori Rhodes, Marcia Weidner, Casey and Candi Crichton, Sally Snidow, Samantha Gallagher, Linda Sieh, Jim McWalters, Karen Strick, Lisa Schoepfle and Jill Miller. And a huge thank you to Rhonda Chocha who led the team in pulling this together and took care of countless details that made this such a smooth and joyous event!



Trees 101 will be doing a FREE TREE WALK to learn ways to identify different species, their landscape value and wildlife functions at Hillsboro Farmers Market at the Old Stone School on June 1st.  Mark your calendar and please share this.


Migrating Hope with Yoga

Oatlands’ Historic House and Gardens

yoga-1-300Enjoy an all level accessible outdoor yoga practice and contemplative nature walk celebrating our connection with nature, the beauty of Monarch Butterflies and hope for the future of their migration

This fundraiser benefits the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy Monarch Butterfly Campaign “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive” and the Oatlands’ Monarch Waystation

When: Saturday, June 8th, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Where: Oatlands’ Historic Gardens, Leesburg, Virginia (If weather does not permit then this will be held in the Oatlands’ Carriage House)

Suggested minimum donation: $15

• Migrating Hope Yoga will be led by Yvonne Parrotte, RYT 500. Yvonne has been teaching yoga in our region for over 15 years. She is passionate about the environment and living in harmony with the natural world. A contemplative nature walk in the gardens with be offered by Master Naturalist, Cathy Norman.

• Nicole Hamilton, President of the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, will make a brief presentation about the plight of Monarchs and what we can do to help.

• Oatlands guide, Margaret Bauman, will provide a brief presentation on Oatlands’ monarch project and the natural history of the property.

• Monarch campaign t-shirts, books and milkweed plants and seeds for your garden will be available for sale.

To register please call Oatlands at (703) 777-3174 or visit:

monarch1-300Migrating Hope with Yoga, contact Cathy Norman at for more information

The Monarch Project, “Bringing Back the Monarch, Keeping the Magic Alive”, visit

Oatlands, visit

“Loudoun County is within the Monarch Butterfly migration route. It is critical that we create more habitat in our area to insure the future of this awe inspiring creature.” Nicole Hamilton, President, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy

“Oatlands’ historic gardens and grounds have attracted beautiful butterflies and bees for centuries, and we depend on their pollination. We hope you will join us in preserving and enjoying these historic and natural resources.” Andrea McGimsey, Executive Director, Oatlands